Saturday, January 15, 2011

emails from November


Hey friends! Sorry it's been such a long time since an update. It's been busy times here in Espana. Let's see, things that have happened:

- a dear cousin from Chicago got to come visit
- I got my iPod touch stolen, or maybe it fell out of my pocket.. not sure. Luckily obtained another one cheaper than I would have thought possible because of my dear cousin's generosity.
- I went with my Spanish roommate Rene to her family's village just outside of Madrid for a day. Her Pueblo is tiny - maybe 4 streets and a church? It was having a small festival so people were parading around in theatrical costumes, and other people lazying around in the sun drinking beer and wine. I ate lunch at a long table surrounded by her family ( only she speaks English) and the table was covered with varieties of Spanish simple foods - lots of olive varieties, and fish( full sardines w tails still attached) and ham, and salads w fresh tomatoes and olive oils. It was quite fun.
- I went to a bullfight... Not as gory bad as I thought it would be. A bit fascinating really. Yes, they kill the bull - they killed 6 of them during the course of the night. But from what I've been told they treat the bulls SO well before hand, and every part of the bull gets used afterwards... it's kind of like a cultural, ritual - man vs beast. I don't think I'll go out of my way to see another one, but I wouldn't say no either. And the madators costumes are very sparkily.

- we had a Halloween party at our apartment. It was very successful and fun. I was a spider. See facebook for pics
- ive discovered an even better Spanish podcast which I listen to a lot since I spend a lot and a lot of time on trains/buses (today I've been in transit for 5 hours at least... Which is abnormally bad - usually its 2ish a day. My worst is 3.5 on Thursday)
- I promised then unpromised myself to 3 jobs

I guess the biggest thing is I was given two more jobs and now I FINALLY have a schedule I like! I teach 4&5 year olds 3hrs a week. I teach theater in English to 4 yr olds and 8 yr olds about 2.5 hrs a week. I have a private class for two 10 yr olds for an hour and a half. And I teach 3 2.5 hr long classes to three different adult groups. I started these last two just this week. After all this I'm happy to say I'm definitely making enough money! Although since I won't get paid again till the end of November... It's still a bit tight. What's great about my schedule is that almost all of it is really well paying, i have all my mornings off, and on Friday I only have one class! What's bad about it is that 3 times a week i don't get home until after 9, and I have to do a lot of traveling. Mostly though I'm quite happy with it. And i'm looking forward to it becoming more routine.

I'm still getting a hang on teaching, but I'm getting better at not letting the stress get to me, and getting better at planning lessons more during transit so my free time is my own. Overall I'm really really happy to have a set schedule. It's stressful going to new locations to teach a new group of people whose personalities and level of English you don't know until you get there! The last four weeks, my schedule has changed every week, and it's definitely been a lot to tackle.

What I just did tonight (I'm writing this email on the train) was teach my first advanced class of English. I have six students who I am preparing to take an advanced exam in English so they will be qualified as bilingual teachers. They are very nice, they are all older than me, they all think im more experienced at teaching english than i am, and I'm certain all of them have been teaching longer than I have. As you can imagine, teaching them is a bit daunting. There is somethings that are gained from experience. I can only teach them as beat as I can with the limited experience I have... I'm learning on the go and hoping they don't notice my mistakes or inexperience. The first class went well, but I'm not really sure how to get them test ready... All that said the class really did go well, and I'm confident, maybe even excited for the opportunity/challenge. I told my mom what I'm doing, and her comment was after this Spain experience I'm going to be able to handle pretty much anything. This teaching stuff is hard, and scary, but I agree that I'm definitely learning new skills that I want badly - no pain no gain! I know I have a lot of improvements to make, but I'm satisfied with my teaching. It's fun teaching these classes to these adult groups. They are really nice people, and It's a good balance with all the kids I also teach. Also, In just the two adult classes I've taught, I've gotten to lead really interesting opinion discussions with these thoroughly Spanish thinking people. I think I'm going to learn a lot about the culture. For example, one class's homework for the week is to write a letter to someone who just moved to Spain explaining Spanish food and their culture surrounding food. The assignment came from a very interesting discussion on food and culture we had, which they were all very opinionated about, and the opinions were so different from American ones. I'm excited to read the letters.

For fun I'm going to tell you the vocabulary questions I got asked tonight...
What does "wound up" mean, and how does wound relate to wind, and how does it change when talking in the past versus the present? Um... I said I'd have to get back to them.

What's the difference between tourist and traveller?

What does "grazing rights" mean? And the words deranged? Unrestrained?

Seriously, teaching English while simultaneously trying to learn a new language is blowing my mind. I've always been in English speaking environments. I've never thought about how much goes into a language, I've just used English without thinking. Now everything I comprehend about English without thinking I now have to think about. I don't think I'll ever see language the same again.=]

That's... About it. The last few weeks have been a lot of work. But now that I have a schedule I'm hoping to figure out how it works and where I can more fun on the side. With the exception of weekends, and a drink out here and there, it's been work home work since my cousin left.

Spanish is still a challenge. I can understand more! I can talk in some past tenses, I dabble with future ones, and basic sentences are definitely definitely easier. Still I have a long long wAy to go. I'm hoping that in a month or so I'll wake up one morning and it will just make sense. I've been told that's what often happens after about three months. Talking in Spanish is hard. But I keep trying... Maybe not as often as I should. I'm especially concentrating on grammer and listening right now.
This weekend, I have plans to have a chill night with a friend Friday night, and I'm going out with Lara to a Birthday gathering Saturday night. For this, I will be the only English speaker, though a few people will know it enough to talk to me, but I hope to just follow what I can in the convo, and practice my Spanish - I love these kinds of situations where it's only me and Spanish people. Other than that, i'm hoping to go hike or something in Casa de Campo on Sunday (it's a huge wooded park and I haven't been yet)... or do something fun. I have Tuesday off as well (there are a lot of bank holidays here - free days in November)

That's about it! more to come of course

love you and miss you all


ps. Went to the appointment to see if I have a visa -- I don't. But the person who was helping me had never seen a case like mine before, gave me another number to call.... and the saga continues =)


Hey everyone! Happy Thanksgiving from Spain

Last week I had no idea what I was going to do for Turkey day, and had resigned myself to not being able to eat any of the usual things. In the end, I was invited to join not only one but two meals of delicious home cooking! It was quite a lovely food filled weekend. oof. I'm still full.

Friday night I went to the apartment of a married couple from Texas who are also teaching English here. I met the woman the first week of October, but hadn't seen her since. But another friend of mine told her I didn't have anywhere to go, and she sent me a message inviting me to her celebration.. They had planned ahead during their last trip to the states (sometime during the summer) and had brought back the usual thanksgiving things that are very difficult to find here, such as cranberry sauce, ingredients for green been casserole, and stuffing mixes. (I've heard a small jar of cranberry sauce is around 3 or 4 euros. eeks). I wasn't sure how many people or what kind of food to expect. it ended up just being Caitlyn, her husband, and another who was visiting from Ireland. Oh yes, and their dog. It was lovely and quiet and deliciously homey.

My second Thanksgiving was an international potluck on Saturday night with about 10 people. I knew the girl who was the instigator of the evening, but no one else. Ten people came. We all brought different things (and a bottle of wine) - most of it traditional, such as mashed potatoes, Squash, and stuffing, some of it untraditional, such as pasta salad, and some Spanish - the Spanish people brought things such as Empenada pie and Spanish Tortilla (the Tortilla was homemade! I hadn't had homemade tortilla yet. What is it? It's potatoes and eggs cooked in this round casserole type thing. You either eat it alone or on bread). The host of this party was a woman from Australia who's family moved to Spain about 18 years ago. Her mother (who wasn't there, but is of the helpful sort) made us a beautiful turkey, and a beautiful apple tart. Overall, the nationalities in attendance were, Spanish, Australian, American, and English. And the foods being eaten were, Turkey, pasta salad, spanish omlette, Empenada, roasted squash, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, bread and brie, and stuffing. As for the stuffing, we had 4 different types of it. Brooke, my friend who had invited me, didn't think anyone was bringing stuffing and consequently told too many of us to bring it. haha. but it was good. One of them was made by me (which I didn't think turned out very well, so I was glad there were some alternatives). We also had a huge pot of spiced mulled wine. yum. It was such a nice night, nice people, and one of my most memorable thanksgivings for sure.

Other than that, not too much has changed here since my last update. I'm still working the same jobs, living in the same room, and spending the same amount of time on public transportation - and trying to find a balance between work and play that keeps me happy.

Not last weekend, but the weekend before I had nothing to do and no one to do it with, which was a bit sad. Consequently, I over did it the next week and found myself engaged in fun almost the entire time.
Tuesday night - cooked a salmon dinner for my friend
Thursday night- went to a delicious dinner party at a friend's.
Friday - went out ridiculously late with some EBC friends
Saturday- went to an awesome Tapas bar and then a birthday party
Sunday - had back t oback intercambio language practices
Tues - another intercambio tapa bar hopping
Wed - went on a food adventure in the morning/caught up with some other EBC friends at night
Fri- thanksgiving number one
Saturday - thanksgiving number two

I could be busy today (Sunday) as well. I've been invited to an intercambio at a bar, to see the Renoir exhibit at the Prado, or I could be wandering around the La Latina district with my roommate and her friends right now - an area famous on Sunday for it's crowded numerous Tapas bars.

But I'm thinking I need some downtime and lesson planning time before the school week starts again. Speaking of giving thanks - i'm so thankful and grateful for all the people and opportunities I've had so far here in Spain. I feel very lucky. Sometimes I still feel very impatient - more often then I'd like actually - but mostly just very grateful.

My classes are going pretty well. Teaching is still something I'm figuring out, but with the exception of my 4 year old theater class, I have all my classes under control and am feeling pretty good about them. The theater class.... sigh.... it's out of control and I'm at a loss of what to do about it. I want to quite and find another few hours of teaching somewhere that won't be so stressful or challenging. I have enough challenges and things to use up my time here in Spain, and I just don't see the need for this stressful class to be a challenge when I could pretty easily find a few hours teaching someplace easier and closer to me. (it takes about an hour and twenty to get to the theater class.) So i told my boss that I'm having a hard time, and I want to quit, and he should find a replacement. But he really doesn't want me too. He offered me a bonus if I commit to staying for the rest of the school year. (the bonus works out to basically an extra 50 euros a month) And he's going to come to the class on Thursday himself to help me regain control of the kids. So I don't know what to do still. But I'll definitely be teaching the class till winter holidays at least. And maybe it will get better?

Next weekend I have a 5 day weekend!!!! Very excited about this. I want to/will be getting myself out of Madrid for the first time in almost three months. I want to go someplace more quiet and nature, but not too far away. Still not sure where yet, but I'm excited.

And i'm still not sure of my plans for the Christmas Holidays, but I will have a few weeks off then too. I want to go/will be going to the Netherlands and Belgium - Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, maybe some small towns as well. It's supposed to be all Christmas markety and pretty pretty pretty. I love the idea of walking around these hundred of years old Christmas markets drinking hot cider and mulled wine, listening to carolers. I want to go! i should have two friends from the EBC course going to come as well. I'm excited to travel a bit again!

A lot of stuff to look forward too. (and a lot of stuff to plan as well. hehe).

The language barrier is still a barrier. And not even just in my not speaking/understanding Spanish well yet. I never realized just how different it would be to talk to people from a different culture and language then mine. Even if they speak English and understand English very well (like my roommates) - the difference in upbringing, and allusions to cultural/language stuff is very much apparent. Still people are people everywhere, and that's very much apparent as well. And I'm not complaining. It's just sometimes a bit alienating. Spanish people on the whole are very helpful and nice. I appreciate having both Spanish friends, English friends, and American friends as I do. And I'm amazed by how I feel the most comfortable with the American ones despite how I've never really identified myself that much as an American before. It makes for interesting observations.

Well, I should go lesson plan for the week. (and eat thanksgiving leftovers. mmmmmmmmmm)

Love you and miss you!!! And hope to hear from you all soon - I still LOVE getting mail and updates from my friends back home. (It helps a lot in the moments when all the foreign stuff here gets a bit daunting.)


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